The best day trips from Delhi
Colourful kingfishers, boating trips and one of the world’s most-visited buildings – all within reach of this thriving city
Delhi is the beating heart of India. Full of incredible architecture, cultural landmarks and buzzy scenes everywhere you look, it’s also the ideal base from which to soak up the nature, history and diversity of neighbouring states. Make sure your Delhi itinerary includes enough time for a few day trips to some – or ideally all – of the following marvellous places.
Only 50 kilometres from Delhi you’ll find Sultanpur, one of the most popular national parks in the region and the perfect destination to escape the frantic pace of India’s capital. The park is well-known as a bird sanctuary, housing around 1,800 migratory species including flamingos, Egyptian vultures and storks, as well as domestic species like the white-throated kingfisher and Indian myna. Sultanpur is also home to antelope, hyenas, porcupines, bulls and other animals, although these are far rarer a sight than the park’s many winged residents. The best time to visit is between September and March, when more birds are on their migration routes. Pack a lunch and plenty of water, as there are limited facilities once inside.
Gurgaon Farukh Nagar Rd, Sultanpur, Gurugram, Haryana 122006, India
No trip to India is complete without a visit to the mighty Taj Mahal. Built in the 1600s by Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan in memory of his late wife, Mumtaz, the Taj is a stunning example of Islamic architecture and remains one of the world’s most famous buildings. Located in the bustling city of Agra, 240 kilometres from Delhi, it can be reached on a day trip by coach or car. An optimum schedule is to leave early in the morning or travel overnight, arriving before sunrise. This means you’ll be able to capture that iconic shot of the quiet boulevard leading down to the mausoleum, with a pale pink sky shimmering in the background. Entry tickets must be bought in advance online and it’s advisable to be at the gates at least 30 minutes before opening. Make sure you join the correct queue, as there are different lanes for Indian nationals and tourists, and further lane divisions by gender. End your trip with a late breakfast at nearby tourist favourite Joney’s Place before heading back to Delhi.
Dharmapuri, Forest Colony, Tajganj, Agra, Uttar Pradesh 282001, India
The ‘Pink City’ of Jaipur is the final city in the Golden Triangle of India, alongside Delhi and Agra, so consider combining all three destinations in a round trip. Named after the blush-pink tones of its buildings, Jaipur is the capital of the colourful state of Rajasthan and gives visitors a wonderful snapshot of the state’s resplendence. Top of your list of sights should be Amber Fort Palace (a Rajput complex atop a hill on the edge of the city centre that transports you back in time) and Jantar Mantar, an early 18th-century observatory containing 20 impressive astronomical and architectural instruments. Jaipur is also famed for handicrafts and textiles, so allow time to browse the weaving bazaars for handbags, shoes, scarves and trinkets before resting with a cooling lassi (yoghurt drink) and street food bites.
If you’re looking for a more active day trip, here’s where to head. Around 50 kilometres from central Delhi, Damdama is a man-made reservoir and one of the largest lakes in the state of Haryana. The lake itself is relatively serene – though boat trips are available – but in the area surrounding the water you can rock climb, zip-line, bike and trek to your heart’s content. If you prefer your adventures with a corporate angle, there’s an on-site conference centre that hosts team building sessions. The lake is open from 10am until 6pm and is free to enter. Alternatively, opt for a ‘day picnic package’, which includes a welcome drink, breakfast, lunch thali and evening snack of mixed vegetable pakoras – the perfect fuel for a day of action.
Haryana 122102, India
The holy town of Vrindavan, on the banks of the Yamuna River, is believed to be where Hindu deity Lord Krishna was raised, and is thus a focal point for Hare Krishna communities. The town is teeming with temples to visit or you can explore Nidhivan, a sacred forest of dense tulsi trees (also known as holy basil) that has a mystical allure. Due to the belief that Krishna returns to the forest every evening to dance with his lover, Radha, Nidhivan is strictly off-limits at night-time, so make sure you visit during the day. The city is popular with pilgrims and is a divine place to celebrate the Hindu festival of Holi, which takes place in March. To reach Vrindavan from Delhi, take the train to Mathura, 12 kilometres away, then hop in a rickshaw.
Dehradun, in the northern state of Uttarakhand, is the closest hill station to Delhi. Hill stations (small towns or villages high up in the hills) benefit from the cooler summer climate – one of the main reasons they proved popular with the British Raj when the Delhi heat became too oppressive. Set in the beautiful Doon Valley, Dehradun always wows first-time visitors with stunning views towards the snow-capped peaks of the Lower Himalayas. Spend your time in the city visiting temples, monuments and museums like the Forest Research Institute, or head out for hiking and mountain biking in the sal tree forests. Dehradun is also the perfect spot to sample dishes from India’s mountainous regions – don’t miss momos, delicious dumplings influenced by Nepalese and Tibetan cuisine. Dehradun is a five-and-a-half-hour drive from Delhi, including time on windy roads, so be prepared for a bumpy ride at points. Also consider turning your Dehradun day trip into an overnighter to give yourself more time for exploring.